Monday, July 7, 2008

Route 66 Sprint Triathlon -- Oklahoma State Championship

This race took place on May 31, the day before the Oly distance race. It's taken me a while to get to finally posting this, but this was a great experience so I definitely wanted to capture it. Here it goes.

This was just 2 weeks after I had a very poor showing at Four States Triathlon, which was the Regional Sprint Championship. I was pissed after Four States...I knew I could do better, but then again, I had only trained for 2 weeks (and sporadic at that) after taking 5 weeks off, so I knew I shouldn't have hoped for more than I did. So I really pounded myself hard in training for the 2 weeks between Four States and Rt. 66. I figured being this out of shape, the fitness gains were more important than being well-rested. I did back off the few days before the race to make sure I wasn't completely trashed. But I didn't exactly have high hopes because of this, but felt very positive mentally and physically. This will sound like complete BS after you get to the end of this race report, but the night before the race I had trouble sleeping because I kept picturing myself coming out of T2 and starting the run in either first or second place. But then I'd tell myself, "Be realistic. You've never been that high up before in a big race, so don't aim too high." I didn't want to be disappointed if I didn't end up that high, so I checked myself back down to reality and said that if I were in the top 10 starting the run I'd be very happy, and even content if just the top 15.

So race day morning, here's the first of the weekend's two races for me. The sprint on Sat., the OK State Championship! I wanted to do well. Did my warm up and then got ready to go out and start the race. The swim went horrible. It was a good 150 meters too long!! Longer than expected swims do not bode well for someone like me that doesn't swim toward the front of the pack. In addition to being way long, the chop was ridiculous and several people got pulled from the water and were DNF. It was actually a scary situation from what I heard after the race. People were really panicking and there was a strong sense of urgency from the volunteers to get to these people before drownings occurred. Fortunately, we have the best race directors and volunteers in Tri-OKC members, so the race was safe for everyone involved. I got out of the water and saw my split and thought what the hell went wrong!!! But I figured if I was that slow, then maybe everyone else was too. I was 27th out of 164, which may sound good, but I'm so sick and tired of not being in the front after the swim!!

I hopped on the bike and got going. I tried a few new things for this race. First, I changed up my breakfast routine and I think I had more energy come race time. Second, I warmed up for 30 minutes on the bike since I always feel so tight starting that bike leg--that helped a lot. Third, instead of hitting a wattage target right off the bat, I worked into it. My goal was to hold 220 watts (my FTP is 230w). So I started out at 210, then 215, then within a few minutes I was up to 220. What a difference! I felt so loose and comfortable and I was passing people like they were standing still. By the time I got about 3 miles into the bike course, I could see the lead group up ahead of me. I kept thinking, "no way...that can't be them...I'm closing on them so fast that it wasn't possible." I caught the lead group of 5 right at the turnaround. Then we turned around into an absolutely atrocious wind and this was where I decided to make my move. I upped my watts into the 230 range and even let it go into the 250w for spurts. I made huge ground on people. Passed the 5th place guy, then the 4th, then I was hauling in the 3rd. Just ahead of me was the 2nd place guy and we only had about 1.5-2 miles left, so not a lot of time to make up ground. I knew I was having a great bike split because it was at this point that I threw up from going so hard. I was having the race of my life! I caught the 2nd place guy and then could see 1st place right in front of me. I had to remind myself that this wasn't some piddly little race, this was the State Championship and I was doing something special (for me). I caught everyone but the 1st place guy and felt awesome. I really wanted to come into T2 in first place, but I couldn't quite catch Michael White. Coming into T2 was the best part of the race for me, and a memory that I will probably never forget. I remember as I was coming in, I wondered what the reaction was going to be...I mean this was the State Championship and there were some really fast dudes there!! As I came in, I wanted to pay special attention to everyone I saw and see the reaction of people who I knew. I remember seeing just about everyone's jaw drop to the ground! It brought a smile to my face and a special sense of "you can do this!" I'll be damned: I had the #1 bike split out of 164 people at the State Championship! On one hand, I couldn't believe it. On the other, I knew I was capable of something like this some day, but it didn't seem real for it to actually be happening.

I came out of T2 ~20 seconds out of first. That is an amazing feeling and does wonders for sucking up the immense amount of pain and pushing on because you believe in yourself. I knew Michael was from KS (the guy in 1st place), so I wanted to at least be the first OK finisher. Pretty soon into the run, Tristan passed me and I knew he was from KS too. He was flying so I knew I couldn't stay with him. Right before the turnaround, this guy from MD caught me and he was flying too (I had heard about how good he was, so knew he was going to get me eventually). I knew Rick Rosales was closing in on me fast, so I ran with everything I could to try and stay ahead of him. Rick caught me with about 3/4 of a mile left and I stayed on his heels for a while. My thought was that I knew I wouldn't stay with him--he's a tremendous runner and even with my newfound confidence, I couldn't physically match that--but I knew Tommy Smith (#26 ranked triathlete in the South Midwest Region) was trying to come up on me, so by staying with Rick for as long as possible, I could hold off Tommy. It worked and I held on. I only had the 19th ranked run out of 164, but that was all I could muster after throwing down a monster bike split like that. I did what I could. But since Rick is from TX, that made me the first Oklahoman across the line!! I took 5th overall out of 164, 1st in age group out of 22, and I had the #1 bike split on the day. Because I was the first Oklahoma finisher across the line, by default, I was the 2008 Oklahoma State Champion! Holy $%!&!! Coming around the turn to come home to the finish line, I had the biggest damn grin on my face. I wanted to give a fist pump, but refrained since I was back in 5th place and not the overall winner. But damn, was I happy.

After the race was such a many people came up to me in total disbelief about the race I had, and to be honest, I was in complete shock. I didn't know I had it in me, at least not at this point in the season. But I had a big physical and mental breakthrough...I can compete at a high level. I told myself before the race: no excuses, you're better than you think you are, just race like you know you can.

Here is a pic of me with my State Champ plaque and Brady holding up my 1st place Age Group award. What a great day!

But still one more day of racing left...

Route 66 Olympic Distance Triathlon race report

This is being posted late due to being very busy, but this race was the day after the sprint on June 1, 2008.

Okay, onto the race on Sunday. Frankly, I didn't care what happened because I was still on Cloud 9 from the sprint on Sat. I hurt my shoulder the week before the race, and it was pretty sore on Sunday morning, so I almost decided not to race because I didn't want to have to go through the pain during the swim. Then thought, why not? My race goals were to avoid injury on the swim, hammer the bike, then walk the run if I had to. I had put out so much energy on Sat. that I was just freakin' exhausted. But then as we're prepping before the race, Buzz is on the mic naming off notables who are racing in the race. Now I'm a realist and completely understand that there are at least 2 dozen triathletes in OK that are faster than me--I'm not kidding myself thinking I'm better than I really am--but I can't tell you how amazing it is for someone like me, who's always been average, to hear "Kris Karsten, 2008 Oklahoma State Champion." Damn, it was an awesome feeling. So I decided to just give it everything I had. Weather was perfect...low wind (by OK standards), smoothish lake, cloud cover to keep the sun away on the run.

I start the swim and feel very tired. I coast for the first 500 meters or so and then pick it up after my shoulder loosened up a bit. I started passing a lot of people toward the end, but once again, swimming is my downfall. I swam a pretty slow 28:11 and came out of the water in 34th place out of 143.

I got out of T1 and onto the bike. My goal was to start out at 200 watts and ramp up from there. Worked perfectly again, just like on Sat. I hammered as hard as I possibly could, but I just didn't have it quite in me and I started slacking a little bit at the end. I did a 1:04:40 and had the 7th fastest bike split out of 143. I was content with this since my legs were already toast before I even started the race!

I thought I'd fall over from my legs giving out when I headed out of T2, but then the competitive juices started flowing. There were a few people ahead of me that I knew I could run down, so I gritted my teeth, sucked it up, and ran as best I could. I ended up not getting passed by anyone on the run and had a decent split, especially considering how tired I was. I ran a 42:44 for the 16th fastest run out of 143.

Overall, pretty good race and I'll take it. I met all my goals for the day and had a new PR of 2:17:04. I know I could have had a really great day if I could swim faster and wasn't so tired, so I didn't have any complaints. I finished 10th overall out of 143 (Pro, Daniel Agnew excluded from results) and finished 3rd out of 28 in a very competitive age group.